Sentai licenses Hidamari Sketch, Glass Mask, and Neo Angelique Abyss

Sentai Filmworks has has announced licenses for 3 new anime series: Hidamari Sketch, Glass Mask, and Neo Angelique Abyss.

Section23 will distribute Hidamari Sketch, a 12 episode series that aired in 2007, on January 12, 2010.  It’s unclear whether Sentai has only licensed the first series or both aired series, but the release is explicitly labeled “Season 1,” suggesting that they have either licensed or are intending to license the 2nd season as well.

Section23 will distribute the first of two Glass Mask (Glass no Kamen) sets on January 19, 2010, which will include the first half of the 51 episode series which aired in in 2005 and 2006. The second set has not been scheduled yet.

Finally, Neo Angelique Abyss, a 13 episode series that aired in 2008, will be released January 26, 2010.  Once again, the release is labeled “Season 1,” suggesting that they may also picked up the 2nd season as well.

As is the case with all Sentai Filmworks titles, these are subtitle only releases.

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Blue Drop licensed by Sentai/Section23/The Company Formerly known as ADV (plus other shows)

Blue Drop logoI’m not sure how I missed this yesterday (probably because I was messing around with other stuff), but Blue Drop, a show which I thought might never get licensed, was picked up by, well, the remnants of ADV films (I think Sentai Filmworks did the actual licensing while the newly formed Section23 will do the distributing).

Sentai also announced licenses for Polyphonica, Special A, Tears to Tiara, and the second season to You’re Under Arrest.

Blue Drop is a 13 episode yuri/sci-fi series which aired between October and December 2007 (see my episode reviews).  Polyphonica is a 12 episode adventure/comedy series that aired between April and June 2007.  Special A is a 24 episode romance/comedy series that aired between April and August 2008 (see my episode reviews).  Tears of Tiara is a 26 episode fantasy/adventure series which started airing this past April and is still in progress.  Finally, You’re Under Arrest Season 2 continues the action/comedy series for an additional 26 episodes, which aired between April and August 2001.

You’re Under Arrest Season 2 Collection 1 has a street date of November 3rd, and includes the first 13 episodes.

Special ASpecial A Collection 1 has a street date of November 10th, and includes the first 12 episodes.

The Blue Drop and Polyphonica box sets have a street date of November 17th, and contain the entire series.

Tears to Tiara Collection 1 has a street date of November 24th, and includes the first 13 episodes, a mere 5 to 7 months after they aired in Japan.

As is the case with all the new licenses from Sentai, these are all sub-only releases.

Sentai/ADV licenses CLANNAD: After Story, Ghost Hound, and He is my Master

According to new product pre-orders on RightStuf, it’s been revealed that Sentai Filmworks (whose distributor is ADV Films) has licensed the second half of the CLANNAD series, CLANNAD: After Story, as well as the anime series Ghost Hound and He is my Master.

CLANNAD: After Story is the 24 episode + 1 OVA second season to the CLANNAD series, which aired between October 2008 and March 2009.  Ghost Hound is a 22 episode series which aired between October 2007 and April 2008.  He is my Master is a 12 episode series that aired between April and June 2005.

The first parts of CLANNAD: After Story and Ghost Hound are being released October 20th while the He is my Master complete series is being released October 6th.  All three releases, as with past Sentai licenses, will be subtitle-only.

Update

It looks like Ghost Hound might have been revealed earlier this morning on Sentai Filmwork’s presumably soon to be launched (and long overdue) website, but they have since password protected it.

Update 2

I guess I should give some of the credit of this to the fact that RightStuf tweeted this and Scott Frye noticed that they were new.

Update 3

ANN notes that Popotan and A Little Snow Fairy Sugar, which are also on the list, were previously licensed by Geneon Entertainment.

Right Stuf / Nozomi picks up Aria the Origination + Arietta OVA, Junjo Romantica, and Antique Bakery

Right Stuf International / Nozomi has announced simultaneously online and at their Anime Expo panel that they have licensed three new anime series and a new OVA:

First up is Aria the OVA ~Arietta~ and Aria the Origination, the 3rd and 4th parts of the Aria series to add on to the first two seasons that Right Stuf already owns.

Arietta is a single half hour long OVA episode released in September 2007 while Aria the Origination is a 13 episode (edit: +1) series which aired between January and March 2008.

Right Stuf also picked up Junjo Romantica, which Kadokawa USA had announced at least year’s Anime Expo.  It appears, like most other Kadokawa properties, Right Stuf is handling the production and distribution while Kado USA holds the actual license.  This is for both the first and second seasons of the show, totaling 24 episodes.  The first season aired between April and June 2008 while the second season aired between October and December 2008.  They are apparently releasing it under the title “Junjo Romantica” instead of “Romantica ~Pure Love~” which is what Kado USA was calling it last year.

Right Stuf also picked up Antique Bakery, another 12 episode series which aired between July and September 2008.  All titles are expected to be released “in 2010.”

Funimation licenses God, Planet

OK, Funimation didn’t quite license that much, but they went on yet another licensing spree today, picking up both Tower of Druaga shows, Dragonaut – The Resonance, and Blassreiter from GONZO and Bamboo Blade from D. Rights.

Now, personally, I’m not sure if any of these are actually good licenses except for Bamboo Blade.  Part of the reason is just because none of the three GONZO shows exactly lit fires under anyone as far as I could tell, but also because, at least in the case of Blassreiter and Druaga, they were previously released legally with english subs (or in the case of the second Druaga series, still being released).  I guess Funimation figures that people already download shows, so it’s no different than that, but we’ll see.

Of course, I’m still waiting on Shakugan no Shana II sooo….

Top 10 Anime of 2008

It’s that time of year again…time to rank the top 10 shows of 2008.  Of course, the usual caveat: this only includes shows which I watched, which this year was only about 20, so it was a kind of slow year for me.  Nevertheless, this list still boasts a pretty impressive list of shows.

10. Birdy the Mighty: Decode

Birdy the Mighty Decode LogoIsn’t it every boy’s dream to have easy access to a female body?  Well, Tsutomu in theory is living that dream, except the girl is in control of the body because she accidentally destroyed his.  Oops!  What results is a mix of action and comedy which is pretty well executed all told, with Tsutomu frequently getting freaked out by Birdy’s alien ways.

Two things held this series back: animation, which wasn’t exactly top-notch, and the fact that, after Tsutomu gets his body back, they find away in the end to make him and Birdy share bodies again.  I guess Tsutomu just thinks that he can be immortal as long as Birdy is there to absorb him whenever he takes a notion to destroy his body.  The one minus that this sets up is that it implies that the gimmick of them changing bodies is the only real draw of the show, and the writer’s belief that they can’t have a successful show without that gimmick.  I’m not sure that bodes well for the second season, but that doesn’t necessarily impact this season all that much.

9. Kurenai

KurenaiKurenai ekes into the top 10 list by doing a reasonably good job at two things: writing and animation.  Perhaps the best part of this series is watching the struggle and growth of the characters as they have to adapt to new environments, particularly Shinkuro, who is trying to find his true strength, and Murasaki, who has to adapt to living out in the “real world” now, all while having a powerful family chasing after them.

However, this show has a few weaknesses as well.  First, the show’s conclusion in a sense made a compromise with the devil – accommodating an evil family which probably shouldn’t be accommodated in the least, taking the air out of a lot of what everyone was fighting for and protecting throughout the show.  Second, I think overall this series, despite it’s overall good writing, missed some chances to turn Kurenai from simply a good series into a great series.  The theme music, particularly the opening theme, also didn’t seem to match the show at all and just seemed kind of weird.  However, overall it was still a pretty good show.

8. The Secret of Haruka Nogizaka

The Secret of Haruka Nogizaka logoThe mantle of “Otaku Show of the Year” probably goes out to The Secret of Haruka Nogizaka this year as there are anime references galore, as well as every otaku’s dream:  A girl otaku. A hot girl otaku.  A hot, popular girl otaku.  A hot, popular girl otaku who likes you because you don’t shun her once you discover her secret of being an otaku.  A hot, popular girl otaku who likes you because you don’t shun her once you discover her secret of being an otaku and who likes to cosplay as Shana.  I mean, can it get any better than that?

I guess one of the nice things about this show, as opposed to something like, say, Lucky Star, is “normal people can be otaku too.”  However outwardly odd Konota is in Lucky Star is how outwardly normal Haruka is in Secret.  Yes, she illicitly sneaks off to Akihabara every now and then, but overall she’s your normal high schooler.  Of course, the series is also hilarious on top of all of this too.  The main problem is that it’s a little thin in the plot department, but given that the purpose of this series is to have fun, and I had fun watching it, it goes into the top 10 list.

7. Shion no Ou (2nd half)

Shion no OuThe conclusion of Shion no Ou dealt with the big shogi tournament being sponsored by Satoru, Hani-meijin’s brother, from the start of the final state of the tournament where the 9 bracket winners plus 3 of the bracket runner-ups face off in a 12-person bracket to determine the winner of the tournament.  As a result, a few of the games played last through multiple episodes, but the writers are able to keep the show interesting nevertheless.  Increasing the attention on solving the mystery of who solved Shion’s parents just adds more intrigue into the show as well.

The main weakness of this show is that, if watching people play shogi bores you to death, then this show may not be for you, as a lot of time is spent with the characters playing.  I thought that the show did a pretty good job keeping the episodes interesting despite this, but I can easily see if people disagree with that.  However, overall I thought the conclusion to Shion was pretty well executed.

6. Nijuu Mensou no Musume

Nijuu Mensou no MusumeI should note before starting: fansubs have only come out for 20 of 22 episodes.  However, I felt that it was complete enough that I could put it in the rankings.

Having said that, Nijuu Mensou is a show with a very good premise and animation.  It’s set in the mid-20th century – an era which you don’t see a lot of anime shows set in, so it is unusual in that aspect.  And Twenty Faces himself makes this series pretty compelling, to say nothing about Chiko, his all-but-adoptive daughter and title character.

Two things keep Nijuu Mensou from being a truly great show however: reuse of the “OMG Twenty Faces died! Oh, nevermind!” gimmick probably one too many times, and the fact that the series goes into stranger territory than I was expecting for the show.  Nevertheless, Nijuu Mensou still puts together a very solid performance.

5. Soul Eater (first 3/4)

Soul EaterSoul Eater is a very fascinating show.  It’s quite different from just about anything else, yet Bones is able to pull it off pretty well.  However, the thing that really drives Soul Eater is the wealth of unique characters.  While some of the character development is a little odd (Maka and Soul don’t seem to be very powerful for a pair to have almost created a Death Scythe – especially with only six Death Scythes existing the world, suggesting that it’s a very hard thing to accomplish), it is generally pretty good.  All three pairs are compelling in their own unique ways.

If I have one beef with this series (actually two), it’s that it veered off it’s original premise – gathering 99 kishin eggs and one witch’s soul – pretty quickly, and it has a bad habit of drawing things out to death (how many episodes did it take to get through the battle at Shibusen, anyway?)  However, all told, Soul Eater still puts in a very solid performance.

4. CLANNAD (2nd half) / CLANNAD: After Story (1st half)

CLANNADFor the second straight year, CLANNAD comes in at #4 in the list.  Since the first series of CLANNAD exited it’s “four-episodes-an-arc” mode and got more into mixing arcs or telling an overarching story, and since we got into CLANNAD: After Story which, until the lastest episodes, centered around more minor characters, this series has fallen in favor a little bit (though obviously not very much).

CLANNAD is still very much the class of both 2007 and 2008, and presumably will contend for a top spot on this list in 2009 as well.  We might not be in arcs for the main girls, but the storytelling is still pretty good, if not a little slow going at this point, which is why it only comes in 4th on the list.

3. Toradora! (1st half)

Toradora!The choice between 2nd and 3rd was very close, and I think the fact that Toradora was in it’s first half while the 2nd placing show was in it’s concluding half was the main reason why Toradora came in at #3.

Toradora is a very, very good show – one which I think may challenge for the #1 spot in 2009 if they keep up what they’re doing in the first half into the 2nd half of the show.  While Toradora has a somewhat familiar flavor – it is, afterall, essentially a slice-of-life harem show – there is still something about it and (especially) it’s characters which makes it different, and a lot better than shows that it might be compared to.  It pulls off good drama and comedy almost simultaneously and still gets in some good character exploration and storytelling to boot.

2. Shakugan no Shana II (2nd half)

Shakugan no ShanaThe first half of this show didn’t even grace the top 10 list in 2007, just to show how far it came in the second half of the series.  We started with Pheles, then moved to Sabrac, then on to the Bal Masqué’s ultimate plan at the end.  There was hardly time to breathe and Shana and friends moved from one major confrontation to the next, making the second half of Shakugan no Shana II one of the best action shows in quite a while, not just 2008.

1. ef – a tale of melodies

ef - a tale of melodiesImproving on it’s sibling’s 3rd place finish last year, ef – a tale of melodies was nothing short of epic.  And to think that 40% of this show (the Kuze/Mizuki arc) was pretty dull, that just shows how good the other 60% of the show (the Yuu/Yuuko) arc was.  If the entire show was just that arc, ef – a tale of melodies would not only contend for best show of 2008, but also perhaps for best show, period.

This show had (almost) everything – romance, drama, shocking plot twists, and more.  You almost couldn’t help but me drawn into the show.  And the fact that the show isn’t afraid to put your heart at ease, only to tear it out in the next episode just makes this show all that much better.

Funimation’s New Show A-Go-Go Day 10 (Part 3): Evangelion 1.0 – You Are (Not) Alone

Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) AloneWell, this was the big big one everyone was expecting: Funimation has licensed the first Rebuild of Evangelion movie – Evangelion 1.0: You are (not) Alone.

The press release says that the movie will be released in 2009, but doesn’t say anythinga bout whether Funimatino plans any sort of US theatrical release or not.

The new Evangelion movie is perhaps the most anticipated anime property that had remained unlicensed, and some suggested that it’s licensing cost would be so much that only a traditional movie studio with a history of licensing some anime feature films, such as Sony, could pick it up.

ANN says that this title wraps up Funimation’s licensing spree, though nothing on the Funimation site suggests that they are over just yet (though a comment by a Funimation representative on ANN’s forum suggests that this might be the last announcement, and it’s hard to see how anything could top this announcement).

Update

The Funimation page with the Japanese trailer gives a release date of November 10, 2009.

Funimation’s New Show A-Go-Go Day 6: Oh! Edo Rocket

It’s Day 6 of Funimation’s 10 day New Show A-Go-Go announcement spree, and we get our second brand new show announcement in Oh! Edo Rocket.

Oh! Edo Rocket is a 26 episode series which aired in 2007.  ANN’s description of the series is this:

In Edo during the mid-1800’s, fireworks maker Seikichi Tamaya and his friends struggle to live under the harsh frugality laws imposed by the strict city magistrate, which ban all luxuries, including fireworks. One day, a strange girl stops by Seikichi’s shop with an equally strange request: she wants Seikichi to build a firework that can reach the moon.

Once again, Funimation announced a 2009 release date without specifying any specific month.

Thus far people’s guesses on the clues have been pretty right on (including this one), which means that 3 of the remaining 4 shows should include the Geneon rescue Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo plus the new shows of Soul Eater and the new Evangelion movie.

The final show is as yet a mystery, though you would at least think that it would be something somewhat significant given that it’s in the final 4 announcements (and really final 3 if you take out Gankutsuou).  I’m still hoping for Shakugan no Shana II, but I have a feeling that it’ll more likely be something like Mushi-Uta or one the biggest heaps of shit in history Seto no Hanayome.

Count so far:

Actual new shows: 2
Geneon rescues: 4

Funimation Licenses Strain, Shigurui, RxJ, and D. Gray Man

On top of the 3 licenses earlier this week, Funimation has now announced licenses for Strain: Strategic Armored Infantry (a.k.a. Soukou no Strain), Shigurui: Death Frenzy, Romeo x Juliet, and D. Gray-Man late last week and today.

That brings the total number of series licensed up to 7 this week. Funimation also reportedly said that they would announce Ouran High School Host Club‘s release date on May 30th and also said that Darker than Black‘s production has been delayed due to a materials dealy from Japan in their Anime Central panel today.

Top Anime of 2007

I thought I would wait until 2007 was over before compiling this list. This list was drawn from all anime series that I watched that aired in 2007. This includes series aired entirely within 2007, series which started in 2007 and are carrying over to 2008, and series which started in 2006 and carried over to 2007.

By my count, this totals to 23 anime series for me, and I’ve narrowed it down to a list of 10 (actually, narrowing it down to about 8 was the easy part. Tacking on 2 more shows was the hard part). So, without further ado, here is the Top Anime of 2007 (warning – spoilers may lie ahead):

#10 Genshiken 2

This is a series that I watched most of (I think I got through episode 10 before it got licensed) and was a pretty solid 2nd-tier show I thought. It’s pretty funny from start to finish (heck, even the opening is) and I think would be enjoyable for most people who saw the first series.

#9 Mokke

Another pretty solid 2nd-tier show, Mokke is a pretty, shall we say relaxing, watch. It’s not quite as jello-inducing as sketchbook, but it has much more of a laid back feeling than most shows do. Toss on top of this a nice story about a pair of sisters who have to deal with supernatural spirits and solid storytelling and you’ve got yourself a good show.

#8 Myself; Yourself

The first of two “out of nowhere” series, Myself; Yourself is a series I almost didn’t watch, but ended up doing so since the fine people over at m33w were subbing it. This ended up being a surprisingly good show filled with twists that keept you on your toes. There may be some loose ends in this series, but it is overall pretty good.

#7 Idolmaster Xenoglossia

Idolmaster tops off a rather lackluster Spring season for me, and is the only show from that season that cracked the top 10 (granted, I only watched 4). I’m not one for mecha anime, so to see one which actually held my interest through 26 episodes is a pretty good feat. I think one reason is because this show seemed rather unique, at least to me. Yes, it’s similar to Evangelion in the sense that the machines have some sort of soul, but it’s more softer in Idolmaster than harsh like in Evangelion. Also, I think that the characters, and not the mecha, also helped drive this series forward and up.

#6 Minami-ke

The second “out of nowhere” series, the first top-tier series, and another series which I very nearly didn’t watch, Minami-ke ended up being a good random-hilarity series. There aren’t many series that can utterly lack a plot line and be successful. Azumanga Daioh tried and succeeded. Lucky Star tried and, for the most part, failed. Now, don’t get me wrong, Minami-ke is quite a different animal from Azumanga, but it’s still a good laugh from pretty much start to finish.

#5 Blue Drop

The top 5 in the list get into the heart of the top-tier shows of the year, and Blue Drop was certainly a treat to watch. One of two Greek Tragedies on the top 10 list, Blue Drop was great to watch, seeing how the main characters, Mari and Hagino, expand their relationship (both romantic and otherwise) under the backdrop of an eminent alien invasion. Probably the big thing that separates this from the top 4 is that I think the animation is kind of lacking from Blue Drop, but the storytelling makes up for it.

#4 CLANNAD

The only show on the list which may grace the 2008 list, CLANNAD has thus far been great to watch, as we’ve gotten through the story arc of 1 girl and are well into the story arc of a 2nd girl as we continue to unwind the mystery in this series. Add on top of the great storytelling by Key the fantastic animation of KyoAni, and you have one of the best shows of the year.

#3 ef – a tale of memories

Ef was clearly the prize of the just-concluded Fall season shows as it presented a story which is somewhat unusual for anime based on visual novels: multiple stories involving multiple males. In fact, three separate couples come out of this show, which each girl having her own unique and compelling story. A mysterious and well told (and well animated!) story gives ef the third spot on the list.

#2 Kanon

Like it’s fellow Key-KyoAni show, Kanon is a cross-year show. This one started in 2006 and finished up in 2007. Kanon quite possibly embodies the perfect visual novel-turned-anime show, with nearly perfect animation and a compelling story from start to finish. This would easily be the #1 show of the year, but only if one other show hadn’t aired, and that’s…

#1 School Days

Could any other show finish in the #1 spot but School Days? This show made waves in so many ways. First off, you had the male lead in the running for lamest male lead in an anime ever. Second, it’s rare that you actually get a harem show where the guy actually scores, much less which no fewer than 8 girls. Third, they creators of the show actually went through with the bloody ending, and we didn’t just get one, but two bloody endings, and memorable ones at that (“there’s no one inside” anyone?). Finally, this show will forever be remembered with the Nice Boat incident.

Yes, School Days must be the clear top show of 2007.

Also, did anyone else notice that all the top 4 shows are all visual novel-turned anime series?